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Bangladesh Wage Protests Turn Deadly

Police have clashed with thousands of garment workers demanding higher wages in protests that have left factories damaged and at least two dead, according to media reports.
Garment workers take part in a protest to demand an increase in Bangladesh's minimum wage earlier this month.
Garment workers take part in a protest to demand an increase in Bangladesh's minimum wage earlier this month. (Munir Uz Zaman/AFP via Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh have clashed with police this week amid protests over low wages that have left factories damaged and at least two dead, according to media reports.

The unrest has been gaining steam since last week against a backdrop of fraught negotiations over minimum pay for workers in the country’s garment sector — one of the largest in the world. Bangladesh’s powerful manufacturers’ association has proposed a 25 percent pay increase, well below union demands to nearly triple the minimum basic wage to 23,000 taka ($209) as spiking living expenses and weakening Western demand for the clothing exports have left many workers facing dire financial pressures.

Police told AFP that at least 10,000 workers joined protests in the industrial hub of Gazipur Monday, targeting factories that they said had prevented employees from joining the demonstrations. A fire set by protestors at a six-storey factory in the area led to the death of one worker, AFP reported.

Elsewhere, thousands more protesters clashed with police who fired tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, according to AFPAnother worker was killed in the melee.

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Major fashion companies, including Gap, PVH Corp. and Puma have publicly supported the union’s call for higher wages. But a challenging economic climate for the manufacturing industry has made negotiations particularly tense.

Learn more:

A ‘Climate of Fear’ in Fashion’s Supply Chains

The killing of a union leader in Bangladesh this summer has heightened anxiety over the risks facing labour organisers amid a broader, often violent, crackdown on labour rights.

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